The Legislative Branch Chapter 12
The Legislative Branch Comprised of a bi-cameral legislature Contains two houses Senate upper house House of Representatives lower house
Qualifications for Office • House of Representative • must be at least 25 years old • Citizen for 7 years • Legal resident of the state and live in that district • 2 year term Senate- must be at least 30 years old Citizen for 9 years Legal resident of that state Elected at- large 6 year term
Roots of the Legislative Branch The U.S. Congress was greatly influenced by the American colonial experience and by the Articles of Confederation. Under the British, colonial assemblies were chosen as advisory bodies to the royal governors. These assemblies gradually assumed more power and authority in each colony, eventually gaining responsibility over taxation and spending. The weaknesses of the Articles led to the Philadelphia Convention in 1787.
The Constitution and the Legislative Branch Article I creates a bicameral legislative branch of government. The upper house is called the Senate in which each state receives two representatives. 100 The lower house is called the House of Representatives which is apportioned by population. 435 and 6 nonvoting delegates. The Senate has a 6 year term with 1/3 of the seats up for reelection every two years. House members serve 2 year terms.
Let’s Start at the beginning… CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS
Congressional Elections • Who Wins Elections? • Incumbents: Those already holding office.
Incumbency Advantages • While people THINK that incumbents have an electoral advantage because of: • Voters agree with the policy decisions • Presidential Coattails • Economy • Truth is, n0ne of that is the case… • Incumbency success is due to: • Advertising, credit claiming, and position taking
Congressional Elections • The Advantages of Incumbents • Advertising: • The goal is to be visible to your constituents • Frequent trips home, use of newsletter, and technology • Utilize FRANKING PRIVILEDGE (free mail!) • Credit Claiming: • Service to constituents through: • Casework: specifically helping constituents get what they think they have a right to • Pork Barrel: federal projects, grants, etc. made available in a congressional district or state • “earmarking” funds: the process by which Congress members designate certain funds to be spent in their district • http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2010/12/16/VI2010121602678.html#
Congressional Elections • The Advantages of Incumbents • Position Taking: • Voting and responding to constituent questions • Portray themselves as hard working, dedicated individuals • Occasionally take a partisan stand on an issue • Position taking has a greater influence on Senate elections than House elections
Other Advantages… • Weak Opponents: • Inexperienced in politics, unorganized, and underfunded • Campaign Spending: • Challengers need to raise large sums to defeat an incumbent • For challengers, money = name recognition • PACs give most of their money to incumbents • But PACs are limited to $5000 per candidate in the primary and general election cycle • Does PAC money “buy” votes in Congress?
Congressional Elections • The Role of Party Identification • Most members represent the majority party in their district, and most who identify with a party reliably vote for its candidates • REDISTRICTING!!
Apportionment and Redistricting The Constitution requires that all Americans be counted every 10 years by a census. The census determines the representation in the House of Representatives. Redistricting (the redrawing of congressional districts to reflect changes in seats allocated to the states from population shifts) is done by state legislatures and, of course, always has political overtones (Gerrymandering). When the process is outrageously political, it is called gerrymandering and is often struck down by the courts.
Gerrymandering • Drawing district lines to favor one political party – usually the party in power • Gerrymandering is ILLEGAL! Two Forms: • Packing • Cracking
Packing • Concentrating the oppositions’ voters in one or a few districts, thus leaving other districts safe for the dominate party.
Cracking • Spreading the oppositions voters as thinly as possible among several districts, limiting the oppositions ability to win anywhere.
Cracking and Packing • In order to reduce the amount of packing and cracking- the Supreme Court (in several cases) has ruled that districts must be: • Compact • Physically adjoining • If there is an issue with district lines (drawn by the state) the Supreme can rule those line unconstitutional
Georgia’s former Congressional Districts Look at the 11th District!
Gerrymandering The earmuff shape of Illinois's 4th congressional district connects two Hispanic neighborhoods while remaining contiguous by narrowly tracing Interstate 294. Aided by computer, California District 38 was produced by incumbent gerrymandering, as home to Grace Napolitano, a Democrat, who ran unopposed in 2004.
Congressional Elections • Open Seats • Greater likelihood of competition • Most turnover occurs in open seats • Stability and Change • Incumbents provide stability in Congress • Are term limits an answer? • Pro • Keeps incompetent people from getting elected • Democracy fails if offices are not rotated • Congress would get new ideas from new members • Con • Force experienced lawmakers to resign • Democracy is maintained as long as citizens vote • Term limits are unconstitutional
Congressional Elections • How do incumbents get defeated? • Once tarnished by scandal or corruption becomes vulnerable to a challenger • Redistricting may weaken the incumbency advantage • Major political tidal wave may defeat incumbents
Organization & Membership The following groups work together in Congress to create public policy: • Membership • Party Leadership • Committee System • Caucuses • Support Agencies Sessions: • Both houses of congress meet for two year sessions. • January 3rd of Odd-numbered years
Congress Lame Duck session Lame Duck session Lame Duck session 108th 109th 110th 1st session 2nd session 1st session 2nd session 1st session 2nd session 2003 2007 2004 2005 2006 2008 109th Congress is elected 110th Congress is elected 111th Congress is elected
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy The House 435 members, 2-year terms of office Initiates all revenue bills, more influential on budget House Rules Committee Limited debates The Senate 100 members, 6-year terms of office Gives “advice & consent,” more influential on foreign affairs Unlimited debates (filibuster) American Bicameralism
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy The House Led by Speaker of the House—elected by House members Presides over House Major role in committee assignments and legislation Assisted by majority leader and whips The Senate Formally lead by Vice President Really lead by Majority Leader—chosen by party members Assisted by whips Must work with Minority leader Congressional Leadership
Party Leadership in the House • Leadership in the House of Representatives • Speaker of the House • Most important member of Congress – 2nd in line in Presidential secession • Member of the Majority Party • Usually high in seniority • Channels bills to committees • Major role in committee assignments (which members go to which committee) • Plays a role in selecting the party’s legislative leaders • Presides over House debates • If the Speaker does not call on a member, he/she cannot say anything • Rules on questions of procedure
Party Leadership in Congress • Majority Leader • “partisan ally” of the Speaker • Schedules bills • Has influence over committee assignments • Works on party unity in legislative votes • Whip • Focus = party votes • Majority and minority whip • Minority Leader • Leader of the minority party • Floor Leader • This is a term that is used to designate the leader of the political party in each perspective chamber
Party Leadership in the Senate • Leadership in the Senate • Vice President • Casts deciding vote in case of a tie • President pro tempore • Acts as leader of the Senate in Vice President's absence • Majority Party • Majority Leader • Most influential member of the Senate • Speaks first on the floor • Power in committee assignments • Minority Leader • Whip • Weaker than their House counterpart since Senators have longer terms and are less tied to their party
Committee System • Types of Committees • Standing • Select • Joint • Conference • Committee Assignments • Ratio of parties in the committee mirrors parties in the house • Usually what is best for the state • Media • Personality • Party Connections
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Committees and Subcommittees • Standing committees: subject matter committees that handle bills in different policy areas; permanent • Joint committees: a few subject-matter areas—membership drawn from House and Senate • Conference committees: resolve differences in House and Senate bills • Select committees: created for a specific purpose, such as the Watergate investigation
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The Committees at Work: Legislation and Oversight • Legislation • Committees work on the 11,000 bills every session • Some hold hearings and “mark up” meetings • Legislative oversight • Monitoring of the bureaucracy and its administration of policy through committee hearings • As publicity value of receiving credit for controlling spending has increase, so too has oversight grown • Oversight usually takes place after a catastrophe
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Getting on a Committee • Members want committee assignments that will help them get reelected, gain influence, and make policy. • New members express their committee preferences to the party leaders. • Those who have supported their party’s leadership are favored in the selection process.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Getting Ahead on the Committee • Committee chair: the most important influencer of congressional agenda • Dominant role in scheduling hearings, hiring staff, appointing subcommittees, and managing committee bills when they are brought before the full house • Most chairs selected according to seniority system. • Members who have served on the committee the longest and whose party controlled Congress become chair
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Caucuses: The Informal Organization of Congress • Caucus: a group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic • About 300 caucuses • Caucuses pressure for committee meetings and hearings and for votes on bills. • Caucuses can be more effective than lobbyists.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Congressional Staff • Personal staff: They work for the member, mainly providing constituent service, but help with legislation too. • Committee staff: organize hearings, research and write legislation, target of lobbyists • Staff Agencies: CRS, GAO, CBO provide specific information to Congress
Spend Money Regulate Commerce Taxation Create Courts Powers of Congress Declare War Lawmaking Make all laws "necessary and proper" to carrying out the enumerated powers
What is the primary function of Congress? Although there are many functions the primary function is the consideration of proposals to become law. Members of Congress, either representatives or senators, may introduce legislative proposals for consideration. These legislative proposals are referred to as "bills". Designations for bills HR#House of Representatives # is the chronological order the bill was introduced. S # Senate # is the chronological order the bill was introduced. Joint Resolution HJ Res # SJ Res # Concurrent Resolution H Con Res # S Con Res # Resolution H Res # S Res #
Congress Once a bill has been introduced into one house of Congress it will be considered for adoption. In order to become a law the bill must receive the approval of a majority vote in each house. Furthermore, the bill has to have been approved with the identical language. Bills that have passed both houses with the identical language will be presented to the president for further action. Bills, which do not receive majority approval in both houses, will be terminated at the end of the Congress. The proposal may be reintroduced at the beginning of the new Congress where it will receive a new bill designation.
Congress Bills that have passed both houses with the identical language and have been signed by the president will become a public law.
Lawmaking Only a member of the House or Senate may introduce a bill but anyone can write a bill. Over 9,000 bills are proposed and fewer than 5 to 10% are enacted. Most bills originate in the executive branch. A bill must survive three stages to become a law: committees, the floor, and the conference committee. A bill can die at any stage.
How Members Make Decisions It is rare for a legislator to disregard strong wishes of constituents, particularly on hot button issues or those contentious issues that get a lot of media attention. Deciding how the voters feel is not possible. The perceptions of the representative are important since he/she cannot really know how all the constituents feel about an issue. If constituents have little knowledge or interest in an issue, the legislator often makes an autonomous decision.